It’s getting a little easier. Deleting is. Deleting words that are already written has always been a difficult task. It’s as though they somehow represent something greater – they almost become alive. Yet, they are just words. Profound, gibberish or somewhere in between they don’t mean anything unless they’re read, and those just deleted never will be. The context can’t be recreated, even if remembered verbatim. Although the words can be reconstituted, what they were born of is gone.
Inspiration is a fickle thing. It comes and goes and when it goes, it’s gone. Forever. Sure, similar thoughts and words may be born of similar circumstances, but the ones deleted are gone for good. For good? Yes. That could be how it should be viewed. Not all things are meant to be. Even the thoughts represented by these words and the motivation they were born of could be better served by different words and more pronounced experience.
Modern technology makes this process, at least in the physical sense, much easier, perhaps even cleaner – more sterile. In the not too distant past, before the days of computers and word processors, a machine called a typewriter was the wordsmith’s weapon of choice. The most modern were electric and they were able to “delete” some of what had been written via a ”correction” feature, but any wholesale deletions still involved yanking the paper from the platen, crumpling it up and tossing it into an overflowing basket of prior “deletions.”
This historic vision of the frustrated writer no longer applies. The yanking, crumpling and tossing have been replaced with the stoke of a mouse and touch of a button; the waste paper basket replaced with an icon on a computer screen. No muss, no fuss. With a couple of mouse clicks, the garbage is disposed of permanently, in a very eco-friendly manner. The frustration, however, remains.
It takes practice to delete. It doesn’t get easier per se, just more familiar. It is a necessary evil. As difficult as it is to turn back when realizing the direction chosen leads nowhere, so too is eliminating from existence words already composed. But like hitting any dead-end, backtracking – or deletion – is part of the progression. Sometimes knowing the wrong direction is part of knowing the right one; knowing where to go might mean knowing where not to.
And the basket fills; it is overflowing with deleted work. Wasted effort? Not even remotely. It is part of the experience, an integral part of the creative process. It is separating the wheat from the chaff. And today, the ease of deletion in some respects makes it that much harder. The time and effort to create can be erased so completely and effortlessly that it’s value feels somehow diminished. No paper, no ink, no evidence of ever existing remains. The memory lives in the words that survive, each of them rising from the ashes of their deleted brethren.